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  • The South Nicholson region has the potential to host major petroleum and base metal mineral resources. The region is poorly understood compared with the neighbouring resource-rich areas of the McArthur Basin and the Mount Isa Province. A multidisciplinary study was undertaken as part of the Exploring for the Future program to improve our understanding of the petroleum potential of the region. Our work integrates newly acquired seismic data, geological mapping and geochronology, organic and inorganic geochemistry, petroleum systems modelling, and a shale gas assessment to build a better understanding of the region’s resource potential. The South Nicholson seismic survey imaged a new sub-basin, the Carrara Sub-basin—an approximately 1550 km2 depocentre that likely includes Meso- and Paleoproterozoic sedimentary rock. Successions within the Carrara Sub-basin are likely to be highly prospective for energy resources, significantly increasing the extent of the regional prospectivity fairway. New datasets and interpretation from this study have greatly improved understanding of the South Nicholson region, de-risking the region for future resource exploration. <b>Citation:</b> Jarrett, A.J.M., Bailey, A.H.E., Carr, L.K., Anderson, J.R., Palu, T., Carson C.J., Boreham, C., Southby, C., MacFarlane, S.K., Hall, L., Bradshaw, B., Orr, M., Munson, T., Williams, B., Simmons, J., Close, D., Edwards, S., Troupe, A., Gorton, J., Gunning, M. and Henson, P., 2020. A multidisciplinary approach to improving energy prospectivity in the South Nicholson region. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • The energy component of Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future (EFTF) program aimed to improve our understanding of the petroleum resource potential of northern Australia. The sediments of the Mesoproterozoic South Nicholson Basin and the Paleoproterozoic Isa Superbasin on the northern Lawn Hill Platfrom (nLHP) are primary targets of the EFTF program, as they are known to contain highly prospective organic-rich units with the potential to host unconventional gas plays. A defining feature of shale gas plays is that they require technological intervention to increase bulk rock permeability and achieve commercial flow rates. The Egilabria prospect, intersecting nLHP sediments in northwest Queensland, flowed gas to surface from a fracture-stimulated lateral well, demonstrating a technical success. Elsewhere in the region, shale gas prospectivity is limited by a lack of well data. Shale rock brittleness in the nLHP part of the Isa Superbasin was analysed in two studies under the EFTF program. These studies showed that shale brittleness ranges from ductile to brittle; zones of brittle shales were present in all supersequences. Shale brittleness is controlled by increasing quartz and decreasing clay content, with carbonate content proving insignificant. Organic-rich target zones in the Lawn and River supersequences are demonstrated to be brittle and favourable for fracture stimulation. <b>Citation:</b> Bailey, A.H.E., Jarrett, A.J.M., Wang, L., Champion, D.C., Hall, L.S. and Henson, P., 2020. Shale brittleness in the Isa Superbasin on the northern Lawn Hill Platform. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • Seismic reflection mapping, geochemical analyses and petroleum systems modelling have increased our understanding of the highly prospective Mesoproterozoic and Paleoproterozoic source rocks across northern Australia, expanding the repertoire of exploration targets currently being exploited in Proterozoic petroleum systems. Data collected during the Exploring for the Future program have enabled us to redefine and increase the extent of regional petroleum systems, which will encourage additional interest and exploration activity in frontier regions. Here, we present a review of the Paleoproterozoic McArthur and Mesoproterozoic Urapungan petroleum supersystems, and the most up-to-date interpretation of burial and thermal history modelling in the greater McArthur Basin (including the Beetaloo Sub-basin), South Nicholson Basin and Isa Superbasin. We also present potential direct hydrocarbon indicators imaged in the 2017 South Nicholson Deep Crustal Seismic Survey that increase the attractiveness of this frontier region for hydrocarbon exploration activities. <b>Citation:</b> MacFarlane, S.K., Jarrett, A.J.M., Hall, L.S., Edwards, D., Palu, T.J., Close, D., Troup, A. and Henson, P., 2020. A regional perspective of the Paleo- and Mesoproterozoic petroleum systems of northern Australia. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • Australia’s longest onshore seismic line (18GA-KB1) across the southern Canning Basin informs resource evaluation of the frontier Kidson Sub-basin and Waukarlycarly Embayment. The Kidson Sub-basin covers 91 000 km2 and has a sag basin architecture. Preliminary interpretation of the seismic data indicates that the sedimentary basin is approximately 6 km deep, and includes a conformable package of Ordovician–Devonian siliciclastic, carbonate and evaporite facies of exploration interest. Located in the western end of the seismic line, the newly drilled deep stratigraphic well Waukarlycarly 1 penetrated 2680.53 m from the rotary table of Cenozoic and Paleozoic strata in the Waukarlycarly Embayment. This abstract reviews the Larapintine petroleum systems and discusses their possible extension into this frontier region. Recently published geochemical analyses of source rocks, oils and gases produced from exploration wells are coupled with new data on fluid inclusion gases (FIGs) from sedimentary sections in untested petroleum wells to provide correlation to hydrocarbons migrating within data-poor areas of the basin. Amplitude anomalies on the seismic line suggest the possibility of gas in the Waukarlycarly Embayment. Integration of the seismic derivative data with the results of the FIG analyses have determined the widespread generation of gas from Paleozoic sources within the Canning Basin, extending the spatial extent of the three petroleum systems described from the Lennard Shelf, Fitzroy Trough and Broome Platform. <b>Citation:</b> Carr, L.K., Edwards, D.S., Southby, C. Henson, P., Haines, P., Normore, L., Zhan, A., Brooks, D., MacFarlane, S., Boreham, C.J., Grosjean, E., Mory A.J., Wang, L. and Gunning, M-E., 2020. Kidson Sub-basin seismic survey and Waukarlycarly 1 stratigraphic well: an acquisition program for evaluating Canning Basin petroleum systems. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • Although the Canning Basin has yielded minor gas and oil within conventional and unconventional reservoirs, the relatively limited geological data available in this under-explored basin hinder a thorough assessment of its hydrocarbon potential. Knowledge of the Paleozoic Larapintine Petroleum Supersystem is restricted by the scarcity of samples, especially recovered natural gases, which are limited to those collected from recent exploration successes in Ordovician and Permo-Carboniferous successions along the margins of the Fitzroy Trough and Broome Platform. To address this shortcoming, gases trapped within fluid inclusions were analysed from 121 Ordovician to Permian rock samples (encompassing cores, sidewall cores and cuttings) from 70 exploration wells with elevated mud gas readings. The molecular and carbon isotopic compositions of these gases have been integrated with gas compositions derived from open-file sources and recovered gases analysed by Geoscience Australia. Fluid inclusion C1–C5 hydrocarbon gases record a snapshot of the hydrocarbon generation history. Where fluid inclusion gases and recovered gases show similar carbon isotopes, a simple filling history is likely; where they differ, a multicharge history is evident. Since some fluid inclusion gases fall outside the carbon isotopic range of recovered gases, previously unidentified gas systems may have operated in the Canning Basin. Interestingly, the carbon isotopes of the fluid-inclusion heavy wet gases converge with the carbon isotopes of the light oil liquids, indicating potential for gas–oil correlation. A regional geochemical database incorporating these analyses underpins our re-evaluation of gas systems and gas–gas correlations across the basin. <b>Citation:</b> Boreham, C.J., Edwards, D.S., Sohn, J.H., Palatty, P., Chen, J.H. and Mory, A.J., 2020. Gas systems in the onshore Canning Basin as revealed by gas trapped in fluid inclusions. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • Water, energy and mineral resources are vital for Australia’s economic prosperity and sustainable development. However, continued supply of these resources cannot be taken for granted. It is widely accepted that the frontier of exploration now lies beneath the Earth’s surface, making characterisation of the subsurface a unifying challenge. Between 2016 and 2020, the $100.5 million Exploring for the Future program focused on addressing this challenge across northern Australia in order to better define resource potential and boost investment. The program applied a multiscale systems approach to resource assessment based on characterisation of the Australian plate from the surface down to its base, underpinned by methodological advances. The unprecedented scale and diversity of new data collected have resulted in many world-first achievements and breakthrough insights through integrated systems science. Through this multi-agency effort, new continental-scale datasets are emerging to further enhance Australia’s world-leading coverage. The program has identified prospective regions for a wide range of resources and pioneered approaches to exploration undercover that can be applied elsewhere. The outcomes so far include extensive tenement uptake for minerals and energy exploration in covered terranes, and development of informed land-management policy. Here, we summarise the key scientific achievements of the program by reviewing the main themes and interrelationships of 62 contributions, which together constitute the Exploring for the Future: extended abstracts volume. <b>Citation:</b> Czarnota, K., Roach, I.C., Abbott, S.T., Haynes, M.W., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E., 2020. Exploring for the Future: advancing the search for groundwater, energy and mineral resources. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • The South Nicholson Basin and immediate surrounding region are situated between the Paleo- to Mesoproterozoic Mount Isa Province and McArthur Basin. Both the Mount Isa Province and the McArthur Basin are well studied; both regions host major base metal mineral deposits, and contain units prospective for hydrocarbons. In contrast, the South Nicholson Basin contains rocks that are mostly undercover, for which the basin evolution and resource potential are not well understood. To address this knowledge gap, the L210 South Nicholson Seismic Survey was acquired in 2017 in the region between the southern McArthur Basin and the western Mount Isa Province, crossing the South Nicholson Basin and Murphy Province. The primary aim of the survey was to investigate areas with low measured gravity responses (‘gravity lows’) in the region to determine whether they represent thick basin sequences, as is the case for the nearby Beetaloo Sub-basin. Key outcomes of the seismic acquisition and interpretation include (1) expanded extent of the South Nicholson Basin; (2) identification of the Carrara Sub-basin, a new basin element that coincides with a gravity low; (3) linkage between prospective stratigraphy of the Isa Superbasin (Lawn Hill Formation and Riversleigh Siltstone) and the Carrara Sub-basin; and (4) extension of the interpreted extent of the Mount Isa Province into the Northern Territory. <b>Citation:</b> Carr, L.K., Southby, C., Henson, P., Anderson, J.R., Costelloe, R., Jarrett, A.J.M., Carson, C.J., MacFarlane, S.K., Gorton, J., Hutton, L., Troup, A., Williams, B., Khider, K., Bailey, A.H.E. and Fomin, T., 2020. South Nicholson Basin seismic interpretation. In: Czarnota, K., Roach, I., Abbott, S., Haynes, M., Kositcin, N., Ray, A. and Slatter, E. (eds.) Exploring for the Future: Extended Abstracts, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 1–4.

  • Exploring for the Future (EFTF) is a $225 million initiative by the Australian Government conducted in partnership with state and Northern Territory government agencies and universities that aims to boost northern Australia's attractiveness as a destination for investment in resource exploration. A complementary initiative, the Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS) is a Western Australian State-Government initiative that aims to encourage exploration in Western Australia for the long-term sustainability of the State’s resources sector. The Kidson Sub-basin seismic survey (18GA-KB1 or L211) was acquired as part of EFTF and the EIS, as a collaboration between Geoscience Australia and the Geological Survey of Western Australia (Resource Strategy Division). The 872 km long seismic line was acquired in an east-southeast to west-northwest orientation, on the road between the Kiwirrkurra community in the east, to approximately 20 km from Marble Bar, near the West Australian coast. The primary aims of the seismic survey were to better understand the subsurface geology, crustal architecture and spatial extents of basin and basement terrains. Crucially, the seismic survey was planned to address a lack of coherent seismic data across the Kidson Sub-basin, onshore Canning Basin and to increase the resource prospectivity of the region. The seismic survey imaged the following subdivisions of the Canning Basin: the Wallal Embayment Barnicarndy Graben, Anketell Shelf, and the Kidson Sub-basin, The survey also imaged several pre-Phanerozoic basement terrains, and several seismically distinct, mid to-lower crustal tectonic provinces. This report comprises a summary of the basement and basin geology, mineral and energy systems of the area, and an interpretation of the newly acquired seismic data.